A lecture by Maris Gillette (University of Gothenburg, School of Global Studies, Anthropology) with discussant Christopher Kelty (UCLA, Institute for Society and Genetics).
Many argue that “alternative food networks” (AFNs), which connect producers and consumers, keep economic and environmental costs and gains local, transfer knowledge about food and production within the network, and promote more ethical relations between humans and between humans and nature, subvert the environmentally and socially deleterious agri-industrial food system. Described in the language of sustainable materialism, AFNs constitute material flows, human-human-nature relationships, and collective formations that combat the forces which produce “industrial eaters” (Schlosberg and Coles 2016, p.169; see also Schlosberg and Craven 2019). Fish and seafood have entered AFNs more slowly than agricultural products, but this development is gaining attention. In Sweden, media and research reports acclaim small-scale coastal fishers who sell their catches directly to private individuals, restaurants, shops, and institutional clients (e.g., Egle 2019; Hultman et al. 2018). In this study we use the framework of sustainable materialism to examine Swedish small-scale coastal fishers who sell fish directly to clients, asking how and if the practice contributes to creating a sustainable food system. Our results show that the direct marketing of fish in the Swedish context has both shortcomings and benefits: it occurs a tiny scale and poses significant challenges to small-scale fishers, while it also strengthens fishers’ relations with non-fishers, provides a channel for transmitting knowledge about fish and marine environments, and facilitates some sustainable consumption. We argue that Swedish direct marketing of fish must be repositioned in thicker social and institutional arrangements that can spread laterally and be networked to unleash the practice’s potential.
About the Speaker
Maris Boyd Gillette is professor of anthropology at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg. She is an economic anthropologist and cultural historian with research interests in capitalism, food, and material culture. Gillette regularly does applied and participatory research. Her presentation today is one component of the transdiciplinary project Fishing for Solutions, funded by the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development.
This talk is based on a study co-authored with Viktor Vesterberg, Doctoral Student at at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg.
About the Discussant
Christopher M. Kelty is professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has appointments in the Institute for Society and Genetics, the department of Information Studies and the Department of Anthropology. Research interests center on social theory and technology, the cultural significance of information technology; the relationship of participation, technology and the public sphere.
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